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Free Study Guide-The Awakening by Kate Chopin-Free Online Booknotes
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Chapters XXII-XXV

Summary (continued)

Edna works at her painting. On sunny days the work is effortless, but on cloudy ones she cannot work, and she often feels like life is passing her by. She spends time with friends from Grand Isle, and she goes to the races with Mrs. Highcamp and Alcée Arobin. Mrs. Highcamp has a marriageable daughter, which gives Mrs. Highcamp an excuse to spend time with young men of fashion. But she is not very effusive, and has blue, staring eyes. Alcée Arobin is a familiar, fashionable figure at all social events, and has a nice voice and inviting eyes, a good figure and conventional taste in clothing, but no great talent for thought or feeling. He admires Edna, especially since she cuts quite a figure at the racetrack. Having been raised with horses, she knows quite a bit, and people pay attention to her "tips"; she wins often. Her face shows the high excitement she feels.

Mrs. Highcamp invites them both for dinner, and although her daughter and husband are totally indifferent to the visitors, Edna and Alcée stay, even through the daughter's poor piano playing. Mr. Highcamp is almost rude in his lame offer to see Edna home, so Alcée escorts her.

Edna is still hungry when she gets home--the Highcamp meal was inadequate--and she fixes herself a snack. She is bored and sorry that she sent Alcée home so soon. She counts her winnings. She goes to bed, tosses and turns, and has a strange dream about the Highcamps and Alcée Arobin and the piano.

A few days later Alcée Arobin comes to take Edna out and pretends that Mrs. Highcamp is accompanying them, but it is a ruse, and when he asks Edna if there is anyone else she would like to invite, she cannot think of anyone. Again, Edna is feverish with the excitement of the track, and Alcée is further drawn to her. He stays to eat dinner at her house. He speaks with fierce, boyish fervor and tries to show her the scars he won in a French duel, but she is repulsed by this display, and when he asks her to go to the races with him again, she says no. She even says that she does not like him. He asks to see her paintings. She wants him to go away, and he apologizes for having offended her and begs to see her again. She says that she is not herself and again asks him to leave. He pleads with her to let him come back and promises that he understands her true feelings. Even Alcée, a notorious ladies' man, begins to think himself sincere.


Once he is gone, Edna thinks things over, and although she knows she has been tricked into near-infidelity, she also has a hard time awaking from the drama of it. She worries what Robert would think. Her husband does not really matter, for they have never truly loved. She realizes that Alcée Arobin has worked like a narcotic on her, and she falls into a deep sleep.

Notes

The plot thickens when Léonce brings Doctor Mandelet into the picture. The old man's advice that Léonce "leave Edna alone" has a direct effect on the story's outcome.

Edna looks, outwardly, quite well--even better than ever. These men display a fear of women who think, the "intellectuals," who are "spiritual" and "superior." Edna has no associations with such women, but she still sees little to celebrate in her sister's upcoming marriage. The men seem to think that money and possession are the "real" issues in life. As long as Edna is in good health, and as long as her material needs are satisfied, she should have nothing of which to complain. The threat of adultery in a woman's life is not to be spoken of aloud, and therefore Doctor Mandelet does not raise the issue with Léonce.

When Edna's father enters the picture, Chopin gives an even fuller account of the patriarchy under which Edna has always lived. The colonel is an old horse trader, a formidable veteran of the Confederate army, and a hard drinker. Léonce disapproves of him because he knows that the colonel's habits have cost him a very lovely farm in Kentucky, but still he respects the older gentleman. And while the two men believe that Edna is paying her "daughterly" respects, she is merely investigating this man, her father, from her new perspective, and going along with the fun when it is convenient for her. Once she fights with her father about not going to the wedding, she is through with him.

Edna's possible liaisons with other men arise in this section, too. Once Léonce and the children are gone, and Edna is at her leisure, it is not long before she notices other men, and then Alcée Arobin finds her. Earlier, when the doctor came to dinner, his suspicions about "another man" were confirmed when Edna told her story of the two run-away lovers. The fact that the doctor dreads the idea of Alcée Arobin only deepens the suspense when Alcée does, indeed, enter the picture. Edna's vague discontent, her long days and mood-shifts, make her open to new adventure. The Highcamps are represented as immensely unsatisfying--mostly boring and rude--and that leaves Edna alone with Alcée Arobin, who shows himself to be dramatic to the point of recklessness. Even though Edna is aware that Alcée is posing, his flattery captures her attention. But she is not yet completely "awake."

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